Anti-Jaywalking Cop Retires After 34 Years
By Emily Yehle
Roll Call Staff
June 29, 2009, 12 a.m.
Officer Garland Thompson was in the middle of writing a ticket on Sept. 11, 2001, when a passerby told him and the man he was ticketing that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center.
“When the man heard that, he said, ‘That makes me sick,’” Thompson recalled recently. “And I said, ‘Don’t get too sick. I’m gonna write you this ticket.’”
The violation was an outdated car registration, and Thompson stood by his word, issuing the $100 ticket in the moments before a second plane hit the Twin Towers. It likely was the last traffic ticket issued before police shut down the Capitol.
Those who know Thompson won’t be surprised. The 57-year old Capitol Police officer is known for his tenacious enforcement of traffic laws near the Capitol South Metro station, where he has spent more than 30 years scolding jaywalkers and issuing parking tickets.
He will retire on Tuesday, leaving behind a legacy of — depending on who you ask — admirable morals or overzealous policing.
“You can’t find people who are lukewarm about him,” Bruce Kieloch agreed with a laugh.
Kieloch, a Democratic consultant, met Thompson 15 years ago near the officer’s post at First and C streets Southeast, where Thompson was melting snow on the sidewalk with a gallon jug full of salt. Kieloch stopped to help.
“We just became friends after that,” he said. “He’s a reminder of a simpler time when a Capitol Police officer was one part police officer, one part tour guide.”
From his vantage point behind the Cannon House Office Building, Thompson has watched the everyday scenes that go on behind Congressional history while ensuring no one violates any law on his watch.
Tom Williams/Roll Call
Capitol Police Officer Garland Thompson helps a pedestrian at his customary spot at the corner of First and C streets Southeast. Thompson retires this week.
He sees staffers and Members and Congressional employees walk their morning route, sometimes over years or even decades. He’s met a slew of celebrities — from Chris Rock to Chuck Norris to Willie Mays — as they’ve crossed his path on their way to pitch their latest cause to Congress.
The sometimes darker side of the neighborhood has also emerged over the years. Thompson’s corner of Capitol Hill has been the site of suicides, shootings, fights and fires.
He vividly remembers a simmering July day when officers found a baby left inside a locked car. Officers broke the window, and Thompson took care of the infant for hours until the father showed up.
But Members and staffers know Thompson most for his booming voice, which has put fear in the heart of every jaywalker who has dared cross his intersection against the light. Once reprimanded, few forget the experience (including several still-traumatized Roll Call reporters).
Dan Kurtz, a Capitol Police officer who has known Thompson for 30 years, often waves pedestrians across New Jersey Avenue Southeast during a red light when no cars are coming.
Sometimes, he said, they won’t budge.
“They’ll say, ‘But that other officer,’” Kurtz said. “I say, ‘I know what the other officer said. It’s OK here.’”
When Thompson isn’t scolding pedestrians, he’s friendly and talkative, handing out trinkets to children or giving tourists directions to his favorite sights. Fellow officers say he sometimes breaks into song during morning roll call, and every year, he dresses up as Santa Claus for local children.
But on C Street, Thompson takes his duty seriously. Though traffic is usually sparse near his intersection, he is determined to set an example.
His oft-repeated mantra says it all: “Remember Capitol Hill is a lawmaking area, not a law-breaking area.”
“The big thing is getting people to understand the law,” he said, “whether they’re the king of the world or the little bitty guy sitting on the street corner somewhere begging for money.”